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7/17/2013

Don’t you just love it when a medical scientist or expert of the sort goes on the record with an announcement claiming things like: Beer is good for you? So many of these so-called experts offer contradicting claims, so in the end, why not go with the old sex psychologist, Dr. Ruth’s motto: If it feels good, do it?

You don’t have to be a scientist or a doctor to understand that almost anything in excess is bad for you, while almost anything in moderation is not. Beer, for example, when consumed moderately, provides more than nine essential nutrients and six distinct health benefits, according to natural foods authors Larry and Oksana Ostrovsky. What better way to enjoy those nutrients than at one of the biggest beer sampling events in the Midwest, Cityview’s annual Brewfest returning to Principal Park on Saturday, June 20?

Yes, it’s that time of year again. One might argue that, after six consecutive years of growing Brewfest into the massive beer sampling event that it has become, there is little left to say about the same old thing. But when it comes to beer, especially craft beer, it’s never the same old thing — it’s a fluid subject matter — and we’re never short for words. Neither are the brew masters who make it out to Principal Park to tout their latest masterpieces. As much as it is a science, brewing beer is also an art form. And the brewer’s canvas is the palate of an eclectic group of ticket-holders who arrive thirsty to tasting events such as Brewfest.

“We are really thankful that Cityview puts on Brewfest year after year. It raises awareness in craft beer,” said Deschutes Brewery southern zone event manager Erik Frank. “Craft beer is the only beer category that has grown significantly over the last five years — in fact, it’s double-digit growth. However, craft beer sales are only 5 to 6 percent of the total beer sales nationally.”

cover Woody_Deschutes BreweryDeschutes Brewery recently announced its inclusion into the lineup of nearly 500 different beers from around the world, using Cityview’s 2013 Brewfest as a launching pad to introduce its products to the Iowa market. Its representatives supplied Cityview with a sample six-pack of those it will be touting at this year’s event. Deschutes is the proud mother to craft beer’s No. 1 selling porter brand, Black Butte Porter. Black Butte Porter is a creamy, dark ale with complex layers, including a hop edge and a chocolate finish. A second Iowa debut flavor is the aromatically complex Mirror Pond Pale Ale made with a Cascade hop. Deschutes will also introduce Iowans to Chainbreaker White IPA, which holds coriander and sweet orange peel flavors, citrus-packed and silky smooth going down. The fourth craft is a perfect choice for a July tasting event, Twilight Summer Ale. Made with select malts and a heady dose of bold Amarillo hops, this Deschutes blend is lighter, making it a prime summertime choice.

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“Each (is) a labor of love from folks who respect beer too much to let it rest on its laurels,” explained Deschutes’ media contact, Marie Melsheimer.

The Oregon-based brewery has been around since 1988 — just not around here — and at 15 years old, a nice, quiet rest doesn’t seem to be on its radar. Deschutes beers are slated to hit Iowa liquor stores and taverns in late July, and a formal launch is planned for the fall that will include special tastings and other events in cities around the state. Those that will be up for sampling at Brewfest will be available statewide by fall in six packs and on tap.

“This isn’t work. It’s fun with a paycheck,” the Deschute announcement states. “From the corner office on down, we’re here for one reason: to experiment, pioneer, tinker, transgress. To push beer places it’s never been.”

So why did it take Deschutes 15 years to reach Iowa?

“We just celebrated our 25th anniversary, and Iowa will be our 21st state. For us, it’s always been about doing things our own way and at our own speed,” said Frank. “When we enter a market, we want to completely service that market while still supporting established ones we’re already in. We also plan to distribute to all corners of the state. We want to put our beer in every supermarket.”

“After Iowa’s revised state laws, we’ve seen an impressive craft beer scene emerge that we’re so excited to be a part of,” said Stacy Denbow, Deschutes Brewery expansion manager.

It’s not just about the alcohol. It’s about networking with others in a common field of interest; it’s about the consumer having a hand in the evolution of a product he or she will someday purchase; it’s about science, art transcending from passion to career.

“It’s sometimes challenging, but ultimately we love to take our beer seriously but not ourselves,” said Frank. “We want to push the envelope, we want to make drinkable beers, and we want to make beers we love to drink.”

Beer can be enjoyed at many degrees of appreciation, as past Brewfest events have shown. Since its 2007 debut, we’ve seen attendees ranging from the guy who doesn’t bother to wipe away the suds still dripping from his beard to the aficionado who savors each sip with an odd idiosyncrasy. Whether they drink it for its flavor or its alleged nutrients, approximately 3,000 people converge at Principal Park, many of whom wouldn’t think to miss Cityview’s Brewfest.

“We’re excited,” beamed Confluence brew master John Martin. Martin opened Confluence in what was once an old warehouse mail room near Gray’s Lake. He attended last year’s Brewfest to disseminate his business card, shake hands with potential future patrons and associates and get a feel for what was to come. He opened the brewery three months later.

“We’ve been to tons of beer sampling events recently, so we know what’s going on and what to expect now, and we’re excited to share our story and experiences,” Martin said. “It’s a good way to introduce new people to our beer, and I think we’ve got a lot of fans out there who will be happy to see us getting out to events like this and getting our beer out there.”

Confluence officially opened for business in October of 2012, and business has been good, he said.

“Over the winter, business stayed very steady and has really picked up in the spring and summer. May was excellent for us,” Martin said.

More and more Confluence handles are popping up among the draft line-ups in bars across the metro. For the Budweiser man, try Farmer John’s Multi-Grain Ale or Capitol Gold Golden Lager. Both are “very approachable,” Martin said. Also, sample the limited-supply, summertime seasonal Blue Corn Lager made from organic blue corn from Mexico. Even at 6.4 percent alcohol by volume, it manages to be surprisingly light and refreshing. For the stubborn traditional beer drinkers in the crowd, Martin reminds, “There are so many interesting beers out there. If you like Budweiser, for example, obviously you like beer. Why not expand your horizons and give yourself variety once in a while? I think you’re missing out if you don’t try new beers.”

Martin promises to have the three Confluence flagship flavors at Brewfest: Des Moines Indian Pale Ale, Capitol Gold Lager and Farmer John’s Pale Ale. Those are the tap handles most local carousers are becoming familiar with, but Martin and company has a few aces up the sleeve.

“We also have our South Side Citra Blonde and (Thomas Beck) Black IPA we might bring, too,” Martin said. “And a special blend of barrel-aged products from Cedar Ridge wooden barrels — the Chewbacca, Gray’s Lake Nessie Scottish Ale and the Highwater Oatmeal Stout.

Did he say Chewbacca? How could anyone not be tempted to try a craft beer named after Han Solo’s most fiercely loyal and fuzzy-faced sidekick?

Another interesting facet of Martin’s latest crafts is the use of the Cedar Ridge barrel-aging technique, a trend that’s been growing more popular among brewers as of late, though this is Confluence’s first time on the bandwagon.

“It’s a unique technique that adds complexity to the beer,” Martin said. “The beer naturally soaks the flavor of the barrel and the whiskey. We got one barrel for each of those different beers, so we could bring any one of them or all three. We’ll let it be a surprise.”

Confluence’s specialty beers have been aging inside 15-gallon Cedar Ridge barrels for months. After being drained of any remaining American whiskey that once aged inside, the barrels then flavor the beer with the whiskey tannins that have seeped into the grains of the wood.

“The Chewbacca went over very well at the last craft beer festival we went to,” Martin said.

It created some buzz and a long line, he said.

“One fun thing about Brewfest is that a handful of brewers will produce test beers that are not available yet,” said Pat McHenry, regional sales manager for Boulevard. “Boulevard will make sure it’s legal for us to bring a new one into the state of Iowa — that it’s allowed by state law — and then we’ll bring test beers for people to sample before it comes out — before we even have a name for the beer.”

This year, Boulevard will introduce its session IPA to Brewfest-goers.

“A session beer is one that you can sit and drink four or five of, because it’s not too high in alcohol content or intensity,” explained McHenry. “It’s very flavorful and drinkable.

“An awful lot of beers coming out anymore are 8-10 percent alcohol. And you’ll try it and say, ‘Yeah, that’s interesting, but now give me one that’s easy to drink.’ It’s hard to drink some of those extreme beers.”

Along with its oh-so drinkable session IPA, Boulevard hopes to also debut its new experimental beer that uses a new strain of hops from New Zealand at Cityview’s Brewfest 2013, both of which have yet to be given a name.

“We use a lot of different hops in the beer, but the primary or dominant hop in this case will be one we get from New Zealand. It has a very different flavor profile with hints of Sauvignon Blanc to it,” McHenry said. “We’ll have such limited quantity of those two, though, that we’ll probably announce a certain time when we’ll tap those kegs.”

But for the creatures of habit who prefer not to explore the experimental brews, Boulevard will also tout its two Smokestacks and four regular beers, making it a total of eight — possibly nine — Boulevard flavors this year.

While Boulevard is a longtime vendor at Brewfest — a popular signature there since day one — and uses the event to fish for crowd reactions over first-time flavors, other breweries use it launch new crafts, such as Confluence and 515 Brewing Company in Clive, as well as those like Deschutes, that view Brewfest as an ideal way to introduce a longtime craft beer into the Iowa market for the first time.

“The craft beer movement is very much a great American dream story in a lot of ways, in my opinion,” Frank said. “Cityview’s Brewfest features over 500 craft beers. That’s nothing to sneeze at. That’s a terrific brewfest. That’s part of the reason to launch that week in Iowa. The best way to introduce our beers to Iowa is to have them taste it. We can talk about the beer all day long, but the proof is in the pudding. Tasting is what it’s all about.” CV

More than 500 beer varieties available to sample

Where: Principal Park

When: Saturday, July 20, 3-7 p.m.

Price: $25 advance/$30 at the door

Ticket locations: Principal Park, 350 S.W. First St., Central City Liquors, 1460 Second Ave., Ingersoll Wine and Spirits, 3500 Ingersoll Ave.

More info: Buy tickets, see photos, video and more at http://brewfestdsm.com or www.tikly.co.

New varieties this year include 515 Brewing (an Iowa Craft) from Clive, Confluence (an Iowa Craft) from Des Moines, Exile Brewing (an Iowa Craft) from Des Moines, West O (an Iowa Craft) from Okoboji and Deschutes from Bend, Ore.

The layout of the event will be expanded throughout the ballpark, proving more space for vendors and attendees, plenty of shade and the opportunity to relax in the stadium seats.

Attendance will be limited to the first 3,000 people.

A record number of varieties to sample — more than 500!

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